Believe it or not, compassion stems from within, which means if you don’t show yourself empathy first and foremost, it can be hard to show it to others.

Whether you’re looking to brighten someone else’s day or you to be more empathetic, here are eight expert tips to cultivate compassion.

Be mindful of your responses
“Every single day we face a multitude of stressors. We can’t make those stressors magically disappear, but we do have the power to control our response to it,” says mental health therapist and coach, Mary Allison Brown. “The key to an empowered response is compassion. Cultivating compassion requires that we always assume that everyone is doing the best they can with what they have in any given moment.”

Live with positive intent
“We never really know what’s going on with other people and assuming positive intent is far more empowering than assuming that other people are just mean-spirited. When we choose more empowering thoughts, we feel better. When we feel better, we are far more likely to take inspired action toward our own goals and dreams,” says Brown.

Be patient with yourself
“We can be our harshest critics. But we are [feeling-based] beings so it’s important to remember that we need to be our own friends too in order to ride the wave of life and get through tough times,” says Joanna Townsend, a licensed therapist. “Cultivating self-compassion is key to feeling connected to ourselves and others. Because much of what we do is dictated by our beliefs and our thoughts, when we lack compassion, we lack the ability to empathize and accept our own humanness, further distancing ourselves from authenticity and each other.”

Acknowledge your own feelings
“Acknowledge your feelings, be mindful of your thoughts, practice validating your feelings, use positive self-talk, and offer yourself kindness and support. We can’t bully or criticize ourselves into hope, healing, and happiness,” says Townsend. Nelly Johnson, a marriage and family therapist, agrees, “The level of compassion you extend to others reveals your own level of compassion with yourself.”

Know that everything takes time
“We all make mistakes and we need to take responsibility for our choices. Acknowledging we are all imperfect and worthy humans can take us a long way in our journeys,” says Sarah Pannell, a licensed marriage and family therapist.

Practice the power of choice daily
“Creating a daily practice of compassion can lead to less stress, better relationships, and more happiness,” says a licensed cognitive therapist Alison Seponara. “We must understand what another person is going through, practice seeing another person’s perspective, practice kindness, practice being less reactive, and be open to a new way of thinking.”

Drop the judgment
Licensed professional counselor Amanda E. White says, “Being compassionate towards others starts with ourselves. We often judge others as a response out of our own insecurity. We judge others to try to feel better about ourselves, but this ends up backfiring because if we are better than some we are then worse than others.”

Know the difference
“We are perfectly imperfect human beings who make mistakes all the time and that is the human journey. We are no different from others, even when we feel different,” says licensed clinical psychologist Shawn Horn. Additionally, Elizabeth Earnshaw, a licensed marriage and family therapist, says, “Offering compassion toward others means embracing common humanity and recognizing that there is not much standing between you and the other person’s suffering.”

Did you know being negative can actually mess with your brain chemistry? Here’s everything you need to know.

xx, The FabFitFun Team